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Iceland is a volcanic island located in the North Atlantic between Greenland, Norway, Great Britain and Ireland. Iceland is Europe’s most sparsely populated country with an average of about three inhabitants per square km. Almost four-fifths of its territory is uninhabitable, the population being concentrated along a narrow coastal belt in the south-west corner of the country.

The Republic of Iceland was uninhabited until the ninth century CE, when Irish hermits settled there. The first Norwegian settlement dates from CE 874. The Althingi, the world’s oldest functioning legislative assembly, was established in the year 930 AD. In 1264 the independent republic of Iceland became part of the Kingdom of Norway. In 1381 Iceland and Norway were conquered by Denmark. When Norway separated from the Danish Crown in 1814, Iceland remained under Denmark’s protection. In 1918 Iceland became an associated state of Denmark until it recovered its independence in 1944. Iceland has a strong economy, low unemployment and low inflation.

Main languages: Icelandic

Main religions: Evangelical Lutheran Church (85%); Evangelical Lutheran Free Churches (3.5%); Roman Catholic Church (1,1%); Pentecostal and Charismatic Congregations (1.0%); and others (1.2%); a final 2.0% of the population is not affiliated to any religion.

The people of Iceland are an extremely homogeneous population, virtually all of whom are descended from Celts and Scandinavians. In 2004, 20,669 people (7% of the total population) who were living in Iceland had been born abroad, including the children of Icelandic parents. Another 10,636 people (3.6% of the total population) had foreign citizenship. The most numerous foreign nationalities are Poles (1,903), Danes (890), citizens of the Yugoslav successor states (670), Filipinos (647) and Germans (540).[1] There are no indigenous minority groups.

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Iceland is a republic, has a written constitution and a parliamentary form of government. Elections for the office of presidency, parliament and town councils are all held every four years, the most recent in 2004, 2003 and 2006, respectively.

Minority based and advocacy organisations

Organizations

Icelandic Human Rights Centre, http://www.humanrights.is

Human Rights Organization of Immigrants in Iceland and their families, email: humanice@hotmail.com

Sources and further reading